Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:
Reducing Disproportionate Discipline in Schools
Recently, concerns have been raised about discipline rates in California schools, particularly for African American and Native American students as well as students with disabilities. This trend is concerning to the California Department of Education (CDE) and me, and it is important to take steps to reduce the use of disproportionate discipline, which can have harmful consequences for students. Taking students out of the learning environment through suspensions and expulsions is proven to push them toward the criminal justice system, and this is something we must work to prevent.
Efforts are underway to reduce disproportionate discipline. These include guidance to local educational agencies (LEAs), webinars to highlight best practices in reducing disproportionate suspensions, and—amid reports that some districts have pushed families toward voluntary or involuntary transfer to avoid reporting expulsions—a tip line anyone can use to report districts engaging in disciplinary practices that violate California Education Code or mask the actual rate of discipline.
The first webinar is scheduled on Thursday, March 2 at 11 a.m. and will offer school districts the opportunity to present best practices, such as alternatives to suspension intended to help reduce the use of disproportionate discipline. LEA participants in the webinar will be joined by William McGee, who directs the Student Achievement and Support Division at the CDE and previously served as Director of the Office of African American Student Achievement for West Contra Costa Unified School District, and Chris Chatmon of the Kingmakers of Oakland, who previously ran the Office of African American Male Achievement at Oakland Unified School District. The CDE anticipates putting out guidance related to reducing disproportionate school discipline around the time of the webinar.
The tip line for reporting any district involved in practices to mask the use and reporting of discipline or to report disciplinary practices that violate California Education Code is 916-445-4624, or you can email SchoolDiscipline@cde.ca.gov. This tip line and email can be used by school staff, parents, students, or community members.
I have long championed programs and legislation to help reduce disproportionate school discipline, starting with Assembly Bill 1014 which, as of this year, will have resulted in $140.8 million in Proposition 47 grants being moved from the criminal justice system to school prevention grants to help schools reduce suspensions and chronic absenteeism. I am committed to leading programs that can complement disproportionate discipline reduction efforts and help schools counter the trend of increasing school discipline. These programs include allocating a second round of community schools grants and a second round of implicit bias grants, both of which are proven to help reduce disproportionate discipline.
I urge you to take advantage of the resources and support being offered. By working together, we can create a positive and supportive learning environment for all students.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction